Mid-Writing Posting: Feedback Requested!

Hi All,

Below is a snippet from Chapter Three. Long and short, if you’ve read Roma Aeronautica, you’ll have some more insight into the discussion below. Let me know what you think so far. Bear in mind, this is only a rough draft, small typos will most likely be removed by the time it gets to the second or third writing stage.

The thrice-cursed chairs in the Air Admiralty’s section could do with some upgrading. Rufius Tiveri Alexandros, Captain of the HMAS Scioparto, squirmed in as dignified a manner as possible. He imagined his deceased wife’s finger waggling for a moment, reminding him to sit up straight and show the proper decorum. Ha, as though she ever did that.

Smiling at the bittersweet memory, Alexandros returned his attention to the festivities at hand. For the last hour, rank upon rank of legionnaire from the Nortland Expedition legions had marched past, saluting the raised bleachers and their occupants. While interesting for the first few minutes, Alexandros was waiting for the end, like most of his companions, who had long since taken to talking with their neighbors about matters of weighty importance such as the weather, the economy, and who was likely to win the chariot racing cup this year.

Unfortunately for him, most of his immediate neighbors were either asleep or in their own conversations, so Alexandros was left to observe and ponder such items on his own. At least it isn’t the middle of summer. That would be unbearable!

Not that the middle of a Mediterranean winter was any better.

A light tap on his shoulder drew him out of his reverie.

“Excuse me…” Alexandros’ eyes widened with recognition.

“Magesteri Heratus! I had no idea you were planning to attend these events. Please, take my seat.” Alexandros stood and assisted the frail older man into his seat. The hand that gripped him was still iron strong, but had the feeling of parchment beneath his fingers. The man sat heavily in his seat, his dress uniform in an older cut, bulging slightly at the seams around his waist, but baggy around his arms and legs. Time has not treated him very well.

“It has been many years since you were an applicant, Rufius Tiveri Cassi Alexandros. You need no longer call me Magesteri. Quintus will do just fine for a plodding old man.”

Alexandros slid into the vacated chair next to Heratus.

“Magesteri, I mean, Quintus” Alexandros started, in the manner that all students attempt to address their teachers once no longer their pupils, “what do you think of the triumph so far?”

The older man’s dark brown eyes, framed by age smile lines and wrinkles, focused weakly on the banners and pageantry less than a hundred feet away.

“It’s always the same, although this is a little less pompous than most.” He admitted ruefully. Alexandros smiled.

“You never were a big fan of pomp and circumstance. I could tell that the second you started asking me questions during that first interview.”

“Ha! You were such a small child, but you made such a big impression. Polite and formal beyond your years.”

“Indeed, but if you had not vouched for me, sir…”

“No need to thank me, especially after all these years. Your service to the Empire has been of critical importance. I hear you have helped save the primus imperio not once, but twice?”

Alexandros felt his cheeks flush slightly at the praise from his former mentor. He started to downplay his role, explaining that, in reality, Constantine Tiberius Appius had needed very little in the way of saving both times.

“Nonsense! That type of attitude may be part of your personality, but it will not serve you if you want to advance up the rungs of the Admiralty.” Heratus lectured him. “And by the gods, we need men like you in charge of the big picture, not running as captain of some two-bit cruiser on pirate patrol.”

“I think I understand.”

“Do you now?” he said with a smile, staring mysterious at the younger airship captain.

“Ah… no.”

“Then I shall wait here and watch the parade with you until your incredibly sharp brain figures it out.”

So they sat and waited, while Alexandros worked the puzzle out in his mind. Eventually it all clicked. The envious looks on several other members of the Admiralty’s box, the vague order to ‘wait for further instructions’ upon his arrival in the capital. Another order requiring him to leave command of the Scioparto in the hands of his capable first officer.

“Am I getting a new airship?”

“Oh yes, my man. Yes, indeed.” He held up a withered hand. “But that’s all I am allowed to tell you. You have an appointment with the Minister of the Air Admiralty tomorrow at 9 a.m.”

Alexandros felt his jaw drop open for a moment. He tried to speak, but no words came out.

“Did you really think that your patrons would allow your ancient heritage to impact your promotion? You’ve got a senator, several legion commanders, an air admiral, and the gods blessed primus imperio on your side. I’m simply shocked it’s taken them this long to find you another ship.”

Heratus had a mischievous grin on his face as Alexandros tried, for several minutes, to argue about not deserving or wanting a new assignment.

“Alexandros, I know you think you’re being honorable, a loyal son of Rome and all. But you see this.” He pointed to the triumph, now managing to enter its last legs. “This is their reward for a job well done. Your new ship, whatever it be, is yours. You deserve it man. You cannot turn down this promotion, much like your friend General Appius could not turn down this triumph. Ah! There he is now.”

An uptick in the amount of noise from the crowd had definitely registered with Alexandros. The whole section was on their feet, clapping for the primus imperio as he came into view. Gasps of alarm and awe could be heard as Appius’ steed came into view as well.

A Mechawolf. How very like his good friend to ride the only appreciable ‘spoil’ of the war in the triumph, foregoing the customary rite of riding a mechaniphant. The prince’s decision impressed the crowd, and it seemed as though the noise increased, if that was possible.

Craning his head to see around the other members of his section, Alexandros tried to get a good look at the senatorial and the Imperial box, both of which were further down the parade route. He desperately wanted to see their reactions to this change of mount, being as it was completely untraditional in one of the most traditional and unchanged elements of Roman culture in the last several hundred years.

“You have to admit, the boy has flair.” Alexandros heard Heratus say.

“In that I disagree with you, Quintus. That boy does not have flair. That man has style.”

Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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